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  • Er Passagallo (The Improvvisatore)

    Quanno Noene l'arca frabbicone,
    Omini e bestie drento fece entrane,
    Ma er corvo, che assordiva le persone,
    L'aria fresca mannò presto a pigliane.
    Er cigno invece co' tutti restone
    E li fece cor canto rallegrane.
    Io qui so er cigno e de cantane ho dritto:
    Tu er corvo, dunque sfarda e statte zitto!

    Tu fai dritto lo storto e storto er dritto,
    Ma che cigno non sei lo dirà er fatto.
    Io te disfido a singolar confritto
    E chi ci ascorta dica sì so matto.
    Dimme quar fune de Tarpea er delitto,
    O tu che de sapienza sei lo stratto!
    Dimme che fine fece, e, si lo sai,
    Dimme si er gallo a Roma cantò mai.

    Tarpea tradì la patria, e ho detto assai;
    Morì la rea sotto li scudi artrui.
    Dichi sì er gallo a Roma cantò mai?
    Per Dio, lo senti coll'orecchi tui!
    Ma si arza er volo, nun ce so più guai,
    Chè Roma troverà li fiji sui.
    Mo' tu che sei dottore in battilonta,
    Quante le stelle sò si poi, racconta.

    Dotto nun so, ma la risposta è pronta:
    Rena in der mare nun ce ne sta tanta,
    Quante so stelle; e tu vattele a conta,
    Sì nun credi de crede a chi lo canta,
    Ma che serve de fà chi più ci affronta,
    Quanno de forza avemo tanta e tanta?
    Io lasso er canto e me ne torno ar monte,
    Te do la bona notte e passo ponte.

    When Father Noah built the ark aforetime,
    He let the beasts in with the men together:
    The raven, tho', who yelled as if 't were wartime,
    He sent out on the roof to watch the weather.
    The swan, however, he gave rather more time,
    For his singing rejoiced them altogether.
    I sing, the swan! my right, who dare deny it?
    The raven you, so get along, and be quiet!

    White you call black, sir; black you say is white, sir,
    But you are no swan, that I soon will show you!
    I dare you here to meet me in fair fight, sir:
    All who hear, let them tell me if I know you!
    Tell me the misdeed of Tarpeia aright, sir,
    For I feel I'm in wisdom far below you!
    Tell me what was her end, and, if you're able,
    Did e'er the cock of Rome crow? is 't a fable?

    Tarpeia betrayed Rome—that you've comprehended;
    Where she was buried, shields were overflowing;
    And if the cock of Rome to crow pretended?
    If you open your ears, you'll hear him crowing!
    If he should fly off, our sorrows were ended,
    For her children Rome has a way of knowing!
    And now, you scholar in a wig, I'll task you:
    How many stars are in the sky, let me ask you?

    I am no scholar, but I know the answer:
    Not in the ocean are the sands as many
    As stars in heav'n; now count them if you can sir!
    Tho' you value my singing not a penny!
    But why go on so, and fight man to man, sir,
    When we two are as near alike as any?
    I'll sing no longer, but go home to bed, now,
    And so good-night, and never mind what I've said, now!

    Return to Folk Songs Page

    Additional Resources
    Famous Italians Folk Dances Folktales
    Folklore/Legends Proverbs/Proverbi Traditions

    Marzo, Eduardo. Songs of Italy; sixty-five Tuscan, Florentine, Lombardian and other Italian folk- and popular songs. New York: G. Schirmer, 1904. 71


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